Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What is the best piece of advice you received as a new board member? (NSBA)

Several years ago NSBA asked experienced board members to share insights about their first year of service on a school board.  The following ideas may help make the transition a little more productive.

Good luck and enjoy your service to public education.
  • Get to know what your role is as a board member, develop yourself in many ways, set goals for yourself, be positive, know your limits, and above all listen. -- Jo Ann Beamer, board member, Ohio
  • Do not be in a hurry to do something. It takes time to develop governance skills. -- Jill Wynns, board member, California
  • I am only one of five voting members and not a power of one. -- Richard Asadoorian, board member, California
  • Read and learn your board policies and state law regarding school boards. -- Ginny Moe, board member, South Carolina
  • Remember, you were elected by citizens. Try to carry their voices and needs. -- Cynthia Shabb, board member, North Dakota
  • Once a decision is made you should support the decision. If you disagree, try to change the decision. -- James R Dykeman, Jr., board member, Massachusetts
  • If it is not good enough for my child, it is not good enough for any child. -- Bill Kress, board member, New York
  • Read your school state laws and codes and ask questions about anything you don't understand. -- Terisa Fitzpatrick, board member, Illinois.
  • As long as you are working in the best interest for the students, vote your conscience. -- Mary Mathes, board member, Indiana
  • Read everything and to be prepared. -- Iris Lane, board member, Virginia
  • If you feel like you are overwhelmed, you are micromanaging. -- Jim Butt, board member, Pennsylvania
  • Be respectful of the opinions and positions of your fellow board members. -- Scott M. Johnson, board member, New York
  • Your primary constituents are the students -- who do not vote. -- Charles Wilson, board member, Virginia
  • Change takes time. Start slow and build to fundamental change. -- Sheldon Wigdor, retired board member, California
  • Don't surprise your superintendent or the staff with questions at board meetings. Give them a heads up that you will be raising an issue so that they will be prepared to speak about it. -- Jeff Phillips, board member, North Carolina
  • Don't take things personally. -- Vanessa hatcher, board member, Illinois
  • Recognize the difference between policy and procedure. -- Bill Culbertson, board member, Kentucky
  • Create alliances with each board member, learn what they care about and how to present ideas to each and every person to speak to their beliefs.  -- Mary S. Cunningham, board member, Virginia
  • Vote based on facts and data, rather than getting caught up in the politics or trading votes. -- Kyle K. Walker, board member, Oregon
  • Be open to listen from all stakeholders before making up your mind. -- Raymond Eng, board member, New Jersey
  • Go to the state association certified training as soon as possible. -- Peggy Taylor, board member, Missouri
  • At Board meetings don't respond immediately to criticisms or complaints -- Kathleen Oxberry, board member, Pennsylvania
National School Boards Association

Friday, June 12, 2015


The elections are over and school boards across the state of Kansas will have organizational meetings early in July.  It is important to understand from the start that team effort and cooperation is the recipe for successful boards. Listening to patrons and staff and working with district leadership to serve students are important tasks of which board members must be mindful.  And, above all, board members must keep their focus on continuous improvement and student success.

 A Good Board Member
                 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

  • Is legally a board member only when the board of education is in session.  No one person, unless authorized, should speak on behalf of the board.
  • Avoids administrative decisions or attempts to second-guess the administration.  The superintendent is the chief administrator and the board has no administrative function.  (This is a difficult concept for some patrons and staff to comprehend so board members must be patient.)
  • Is well acquainted with school policies.
  • Should vote at all times in the best interest of children of the school district.  Quality instruction and student learning should always be first on the "agenda."
  • Is flexible and realizes there are times when changes must be made, when tradition cannot be honored, and when pressure must be ignored.
  • Remembers that board business at times requires confidentiality, especially in processes involving personnel, land acquisition, negotiations, and need for security. (Patrons and staff do not always understand this point and board members must be patient with them when they must refuse to respond to some questions.)
  • Is interested in obtaining facts, but remembers also that the administration has the responsibility for operating the schools rather than spending full time making reports to the board or an individual board member.
  • Is a good listener at board meetings, on the street corner, in the church, but NEVER commits him/herself, the board or the administration. 
  • Remembers that there is a chain of command in the district and always insists that patrons and district staff follow that chain when concerns are registered. (Patrons and staff are not always pleased to hear from a board member who tells them they must follow the chain of command when complaining or wanting to get something changed.  They will offer many excuses as to why a board member should "solve their problem" so board members must be patient but unyielding.)
  • Has a sense of humor and the ability to laugh at him/herself when things look bleak.
  • Is able to sift fact from fiction, to sort out rumors from realism and to know the difference.  A gullible board member is ineffective.
  • Is able to support a decision when it is made.
  • Is aware that if he/she has children in school or a relative who is employed by the local district that it will be imperative to work harder to follow items 1 - 12 above than a board member who does not have an relative employed by the district.

The old anecdote “we are only as good collectively as we are individually” rings true.  Be a great board member and be part of a great board team.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

New Board Member Workshops 2015

The past couple of weeks the KASB Leadership Services team has been on the road working with new school boards.  Stops at Manhattan, Oakley, and Sublette the last week of April and this past week at Clearwater and Greenbush.  Nearly 400 people have attended the sessions that included many administrators and mentor board members.  The topics revolve around the seven powers of a school board. 

The seven powers are really the learning objectives for the day.  Understanding these important powers allows each board to move school districts forward.

Gary Sechrist shares the importance of building a “positive” board culture.  He shares and explains the governance clock to help new board members understand the role of the board in leading the school district.  Discussions on trust, communication and teamwork help new board members understand the importance of building relationships and focusing on leadership. 

Dr. Brian Jordan presents information to new board members about the focus of leadership and student success.  Achievement drive the conversations and all attendees have departed with a better understanding of how boards help student and district graduate students ready for careers or college.

We start back up again this weekend in Hays and conclude the workshops in Topeka on June 20.  School district leaders have commented that it is a great day to learn and share ideas with other committed educational leaders.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Good Board Members Do:

·      Recognize that their responsibility is not to run the schools, but to see that they are run well.

·      Work through the properly appointed administrative officers according to the organization as planned.

·      Function as part of a policy-forming and control board rather than as part of the administrative team.

·      Refer, as far as possible, all complaints and requests to the appropriate administrative officer.

·      Familiarize themselves in a broad and non-technical manner with the problems of the school system.

·      Try to interpret to the superintendent the attitudes, wishes, and needs of the people of the district and try to interpret to the people the needs, problems and progress of the schools.

·      Voice opinions frankly in board meetings and vote for what seems best for all children of the district.

·      Recognize fully that the appropriate administrative officer is entirely responsible for carrying out a particular policy in accordance with state law and local regulations.

·      Help to frame policies and plans only after considering the recommendations of the appropriate administrative officer, together with his/her reasons for making such recommendations.

·      Require oral and written reports that are requested through the administration for the purpose of keeping the board properly informed on school matters.

·      Give all school officials authority in keeping with their responsibilities.  Vote only for the best-trained technical and professional employees who have been properly recommended by the superintendent.

·      Visit the schools to gain clearer understanding of school problems, but not to interfere in the day-by-day administration of the schools.     

·      Establish criteria for evaluating the efficiency and effectiveness of the superintendent.

·      Present personal criticism of school employees only to the appropriate administrative officer.

·      Support and protect school officials in the performance of their duties.

·      Give friendly counsel and advice to administrative officers.

·      Be always mindful that the KEY WORK of the school board with the leadership of the superintendent is to improve student achievement.

Good Board Members Do Not:

·      Interfere with the day-by-day routine of school administration and supervision.

·      Refuse to support worthwhile school programs because of personal reasons.

·      Show favoritism to relatives or friends.

·      Make promises and commitments before the questions are fully discussed in the board meetings.

·      Join a clique to control board activity.

·      Use board membership for political or business advancement for themselves, their family or friends.

·      Surprise the appropriate administrative officers in school board meetings.